Genesis does what Darksiders 1-3 also do but in 2D.
When Virgil Games, the original developers of the Darksiders series shut down after the bankruptcy of their parent company, their staff split off into a few different directions. Key members of the Darksiders team would go on to form both Gunfire Games and Airship Syndicate. When the series was later revived, Gunfire Games would be tasked with creating the next numbered sequel, Darksiders III. Now with Darksiders Genesis we have the opportunity to see Airship Syndicate’s take on the franchise. Unlike Gunfire’s entry however, Airship Syndicate gives us a new perspective on the adventure. It also tells a brand new prequel story, whereas the rest of the series occurs roughly parallel to each other from different viewpoints. I was admittedly apprehensive about how much of the Darksiders design could be preserved in this new format, but these concerns ultimately didn’t last long.
While it may look different and make some significant changes to progression, the core of Darksiders Genesis remains a Darksiders game. That means over-the-top characters, hack-and-slash combat, and some Zelda-inspired puzzles and item unlocks, all set against a background of questionable theological accuracy. As previously mentioned, Genesis is set before the events of the primary Darksiders games in which War, the original game’s protagonist, brings forth the apocalypse ahead of schedule. We follow War and the fourth, previously unexplored horseman, Strife. Together they are charged with unraveling a plot by Lucifer to shift the balance of power between Heaven and Hell. I’ll admit that I was a tad disappointed that I couldn’t choose from all four horsemen, but War and Strife counterbalance each other so well that it's worth it to limit the cast. War retains his gruff and unwavering resolve while Strife is snarky and quick witted. Their interactions are often hilarious and hang a lantern on how the tone of the series has shifted since the first game.
Progression is built around a linear set of chapters that unlock one after the other. Each chapter is bookended by a visit to the void where you’ll be able to talk to various characters, access a horde-style arena mode, and purchase upgrades for your characters. The levels themselves are sprawling and usually allow for multiple paths to the final goal. Each one is also littered with side objectives that may grant new abilities or even factor into the ultimate end of the level. One issue that comes with the open levels is an absolutely horrible map. You get a vague blinking portion of the map to represent where you are, but the given segment is often half the map. Additionally the icons that indicate item locations across the level are just too small, especially in handheld mode. Occasionally levels will contain new key items. While these of course factor into progression in future levels, they also allow you to access new areas in previously completed levels where additional objectives can be accessed. That being said the benefit of completing these objectives is not always immediately obvious. Rewards from completed missions have to be claimed from the menu, rather than being given automatically. I played Darksiders Genesis both in its original PC release and now again on Switch, and unless I skipped it both times, it never tells you where to redeem these. I’ve managed to stumble into it both times but I don’t see the point of forcing the player to manually reward themselves.
Despite the change in perspective, Darksiders Genesis manages to play very similarly to its fully 3D counterparts. Combat, particularly with War, feels much like it did in the first Darksiders. His moveset and most of his abilities are present and accounted for. Strife on the other hand seems more custom built for this top-down style. While he still has access to hack-and-slash-style combat, he also has dual pistols that cause him to play a bit like a twin-stick shooter, with the right stick controlling his firing direction. You can Switch between each character whenever you want, though you can also play cooperatively both locally and online. Neither single or multiplayer feel objectively better than the other. I played most of the game single player without feeling like anything was meant for me to have another person.
The Switch port itself does have a couple minor technical issues to be aware of as compared to the PC original. Firstly the resolution when playing in handheld can get quite low. While it's merely a little ugly most of the time, there are instances where low resolution combined with a small enemy type causes actual difficulty. Secondly some stutters are present throughout the experience that seem to be tied to loading in new parts of the map. They only occur in specific areas that are usually outside of combat, but they are annoying when they happen. Beyond that though the port is solid. Despite plenty of visual adjustments, Darksiders Genesis holds its visual identity well against the PC version.
Finally I wanted to mention the sound design. Darksiders Genesis has some of the best acting and music of the entire series. As I mentioned before, War and Strife play off each other perfectly. The music is probably the best Darksiders has ever had, which is saying something. It is varied, catchy, and excellently produced. Some of it even has a slight Donkey Kong Country vibe to it in its rhythm sections and backing strings.
Darksiders Genesis takes most of what you love about the Darksiders games and gives them a fresh spin. While I do wish that it had maintained the unified world of its mainline brethren, the adventure is thrilling from beginning to end. The Switch port itself certainly has some rough spots, but is overall still a solid way to experience Darksiders Genesis. An oddly hidden mission reward system and horrible map may cause some confusion, but the music and character dialogue are all superb. Fans of the Darksiders franchise will almost certainly find enjoyment here and newcomers can feel at ease knowing that they don’t need to play the previous entries to enjoy this one.